The floods caused by coastal El Niño in Peru have already affected 400,000 people

In 2023, the rainy season in Peru has been marked by a series of climatic events, such as the Yaku, the first cyclone recorded in this area of ​​the Pacific in 40 years, followed by the unusual warming of ocean waters off the country’s coasts. , which forced the authorities to declare an alert for the phenomenon of The Coastal Child.

In an interview with UN News, the regional adviser for Disaster Response at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Latin America and the Caribbean has declared that “all of Peru, but mainly the north of the country, has been affected by this local phenomenon.”

Gianni Morelli explained that coastal El Niño “is a phenomenon that involves an increase in rainfall (in these areas we should already be in a dry period) and in the northern part of the country we have had a very significant accumulation of rain, which has generated floods in three northern departments: Tumbes, Piura and Lambayeque”.

The number of people in need may rise to half a million.

“These floods have generated significant damage to people and property, with 66% of the damage registered to date. According to official information, we have 67,200 people affected and 391,000 people affected”, adds the adviser.

Morelli explains that, according to the Peruvian legal framework, we speak of “victims” when it comes to people who have lost their home or when the remains of their home are uninhabitable. On the other hand, the term “affected” refers to people who have suffered damage, direct or indirect, due to the impact of the floods.

“The figures are quite impressive because we are only at 66% of the official record. The country’s Humanitarian Network team, led by the United Nations Resident Coordinator, estimates that the number of people in need of humanitarian aid could be around half a million people”.

The floods have not only affected the homes of thousands of inhabitants, which to date number 146,539, they have also devastated their means of subsistence and transportation. In addition, a total of 99 dead and 13 missing at the national level.

Access to education for 55,440 childrenhas been affected and local child protection services remain overburdened. According to the Office, the dispersion of the population in the area poses a challenge to identify and protect all those who need help.

A displaced boy, whose home was destroyed by flooding, brushes his teeth outside a temporary shelter in Lima, Peru (file).

A displaced boy, whose home was destroyed by flooding, brushes his teeth outside a temporary shelter in Lima, Peru (file).

Deployment of humanitarian aid

To deal with the situation, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has deployed the Team for Assessment and Coordination in Cases of Disasters and an expert from the Joint Unit for Environmental Emergencies in Lambayeque, Piura and Tumbes. In the three regions, Regional Humanitarian Networks have been established that organize international cooperation and humanitarian NGOs.

“Since the beginning of March, the United Nations system has been responding in quite important ways, fundamentally mobilizing internal resources. Some agencies like the World Food Programthe UN Children’s Fund and the International Organization for Migration have used their immediate response capacity to support the first actions”, says Gianni Morelli.

This corresponds to about two and a half million dollars that have been mobilized since the beginning of the events. In Peru there are 22 funds, programs and agencies of the United Nations system that have provided support in accordance with their mandate and their capacities to the response in the country”, he adds.

“For the moment, an additional fund has also been allocated by the United Nations Secretariat and the Emergency Assistance Coordinator is for seven million dollars to support some key sectors”.

According to Morelli, the main aid actions have consisted of cash transfers for the most affected families support in temporary shelter areas before the loss of homes and also direct health assistance and sexual and reproductive health. In addition, support programs have been established for the protection of children and adolescents through specific programs of UNICEF.

The general adviser points out that, from now on, the actions will focus on two main lines of work. On the one hand, to continue supporting people who have already been included in the Single Registry of victims. For other, reach the most remote areas, which have not yet been addressed due to the difficulty of accessing them. These are territories in which floods have caused interruptions in the road network or there are collapsed bridges.

Morelli declares that, for the moment, these areas have been attended through air support with Civil Defense helicopters. “In the Piura area we are counting the communities that have not yet been served. We estimate it to be around 15% to 20% of the total in this area.”

The boy and the girl

In addition to the human and infrastructure losses that the country is facing, it is expected that by the end of the year the effects of the global El Niño and La Niña phenomena may begin to be felt, which every year they cause very intense rains in Peru.

The regional adviser points out that, although these phenomena are similar in their manifestations to the coastal El Niño, they are not the same. In the case of El Niño and La Niña, they are phenomena that affect the entire planet.

In the case of El Niño Costero, it is a localized and infrequent event. “We had coastal children in the north of Peru in the years 1995, 1996, we had it in 2017 and we had it now in 2023. This phenomenon corresponds to a warming of the surface of the Pacific Ocean in some areas between northern Peru and Ecuador”.

According to forecasts, it is likely that by the end of the year the heavy rains will cause scenarios similar to the current one, and that they will put thousands of people, who are already in a vulnerable state, even more at risk. It is also possible that areas that have not been affected so far will experience flooding.

Faced with this situation, the Office and its partners continue to work with the authorities in the country and with the corresponding institutions to strengthen the prevention mechanisms. “Obviously we are in connection with all the early warning systems, mainly related to the issue of the global El Niño phenomenon, and we are working with the government of Peru to develop a rapid response plan to mitigate its impact.”

Morelli explains that the cooperation takes place mainly with the Ministry of Housing to prepare some areas where rivers tend to flood. are also being designed contingency plans by UN agencies, in close collaboration with local authorities.

When asked if there is a clear correlation between the coastal El Niño phenomenon and the climate change, Gianni Morelli assures that a reduction in the recurrence times of the phenomenon has been observed in recent years. However, until now there are no conclusive studies on a clear correlation between the two.

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Written by Editor TLN

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